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On Marriage

On Marriage

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As I understand it, feelings are extremely political – because they tell us a lot about power: who has it, and who doesn’t. For anyone who has experienced, contemplated or rejected it, On Marriage offers a fascinating exploration of an institution that, for better or worse, “continues to shape and carry our human story”. Feelings - especially 'negative' feelings; feelings as framed by modernity/history, technology, literature, art, film and psychoanalysis. Because it looks as though what I’m saying is that feeling Jewish means to feel: guilt, envy, self-hatred, paranoia – come and get it!

So, all the feelings I’ve selected are ones that have a kind of ‘bad’ reputation that I wanted to overturn: I don’t wish to say that they’re bad feelings, though I do admit that they are or can be painful. Devorah, who happens to be Lisa's daughter-in-law, draws on some related tropes of memoir and psychoanalysis in her writing and film-making. But the way I’m understanding the term ‘Jewish’ there is that it’s a kind of experience of being both inside and outside – at the same time. Because in comedy you can only get away with it by virtue of the fact that everybody thinks you’re ‘only joking’.From Freud to Ferrante, and One Thousand and One Nights to Fleabag , she looks at marriage in all of its forms – from act of love to leap of faith, and asks: what are we really doing when we say ‘I do’? In fact, the reverse was true; Baum is interested as much in the expectations created around marriage, for women in particular, by a society that is still principally organised around married couples and the resulting family unit, and what those expectations mean for anyone who chooses to arrange their life and relationships differently. You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice. With Josh Appignanesi she co-directed the creative documentary feature film The New Man (2016) and the feature film Husband (2023).

And I feel this is the case with all feelings – that they need to be admitted, even if only to yourself.But at the end of all her analysis, a definitive understanding remains elusive: “Having thought so much about marriage, the truth is that I still don’t know what I think about it. She pushes at the boundaries of marriage as a framework for conceiving of ourselves in relation to others . And that’s the familiar Jewish stereotype, but it’s also the product of a specific social situation, and I think it’s quite extreme in some ways, in a culture like this one – in particular where there’s a strong class system, where everybody knows their place, and you’re the people who don’t seem to have one.

Of course, Jews have done what they have done everywhere also in the UK – which is to transcend class. The point, of course, is that a marriage is unknowable to anyone outside it (and often to the people in it), so that only the couple themselves know where the lines between autofiction, truth and comedy blur in these retellings. EV: We wondered if this idea of the joke in your book The Jewish Joke (2018) could be linked to theatre. Exploring her own marriage has given Baum a unique vantage point from which to investigate the private intricacies of other people's arrangements .Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian View image in fullscreen ‘Marriage is unknowable to anyone outside it’: Devorah Baum and husband Josh Appignanesi with their children in 2016. Often you find they’re very funny, and then the moment they’re not being funny, you find that they’re awfully serious – a little bit too serious. Baum’s methodology is to look at what is missing – a philosophy of marriage, a clear idea of what this dominant structure is and how it influences lives. To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average.

So as they saw it, their choice was between condemning him for being bad, or showing a liberal understanding of why he turned out so bad.So that wasn’t a direct experience of aggressive, hostile antisemitism, but it was implicit in the acceptance of Shylock as staged Jew.

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